The evocative and riveting stories of four brothers—Gershom the Zionist, Werner the Communist, Reinhold the nationalist, and Erich the liberal—weave together in The Scholems, a biography of an eminent middle-class Jewish Berlin family and a social history of the Jews in Germany in the decades leading up to World War II.
Across four generations, Jay Howard Geller illuminates the transformation of traditional Jews into modern German citizens, the challenges they faced, and the ways that they shaped the German-Jewish century, beginning with Prussia's emancipation of the Jews in 1812 and ending with exclusion and disenfranchisement under the Nazis. Focusing on the renowned philosopher and Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem and his family, their story beautifully draws out the rise and fall of bourgeois life in the unique subculture that was Jewish Berlin. Geller portrays the family within a much larger context of economic advancement, the adoption of German culture and debates on Jewish identity, struggles for integration into society, and varying political choices during the German Empire, World War I, the Weimar Republic, and the Nazi era. What Geller discovers, and unveils for the reader, is a fascinating portal through which to view the experience of the Jewish middle class in Germany.
"In this richly textured portrait of a German-Jewish family that included the renowned brothers Gershom and Werner Scholem, Jay Geller depicts the rise and fall of the dream of German-Jewish symbiosis and reminds us of how wonderfully vibrant those caught up in the dream actually were—whether they sought to prop up or break free of its tragic illusions."
George Prochnik, author of Stranger in a Strange Land
"Based on a remarkable excavation of archives from around the world, The Scholems illuminates the lives of the family's famous brothers, as well as their virtually unknown brethren, to provide a social history of the German Jews during a period of earth-shaking change."
David Biale, author of Gershom Scholem
"Excellent.... Well-researched and engagingly written, this is a fine contribution to German-Jewish biography and history."
"Geller sets out a compelling tale of a diverse group of German Jews in the early 20th century who were broadly representative of the culture and class of a long-lost era."
"Compelling.... In writing the biography of the Scholem family, Geller has consulted a breathtaking array of sources on several continents and in several languages."
Times Higher Education